Twitter/X, our Glossary, Disinformation in Europe – Newsletter #8


Dr. Joachim Rother


Hello and welcome to issue #8 of Upgrade Democracy News!

I’ve dealt with the topic of trust over the past few days.

For example, I trust in the resilience of our democracy, even in the face of the rise of populism in our society.

I trust that people also in the future do want to live on our blue planet, even if we are currently in danger of not reaching our climate goals and and even if, in view of the ignorance of some of our fellow citizens, it sometimes doesn’t seem as if there is a great deal of interest in actually trying to achieve that.

To be honest, I trust in quite a lot. In weak moments, however, this trust also threatens to crumble. Maybe also because I have the impression that trust as a “currency” is sometimes handled too lightly.

Most recently, I noticed this in the case of Twitter…, erm… X I mean of course. Ever since Elon Musk took over the platform in October last year, he seemed to miss no opportunity to carelessly squander the trust of users in the platform. Just think of the confusion around the blue checkmark or the sudden limitation of the maximum posts that can be viewed per day for non-paying users. Yet our latest study shows just how important trustworthy platforms actually are. According to the study, 54 percent of EU citizens are unsure about the reliability of information on the Internet (more information is linked down below).

And now the renaming of Twitter to X. This actually kills a brand that had achieved what most brands can only dream of: To become part of everyday language via words like “to tweet”. Even a lot of money can’t buy better marketing like that.

So one of Musk’s and his team’s main tasks will be to clean up the mess and rebuild trust. Trust in the platform, in the brand, and ultimately the trust in him as the owner. Because without trust, the vision of X as a new super platform à la WeChat will quite possibly remain a vision. It’s no coincidence that Meta launched Threads, a short messaging service, at a time when Twitter was at its weakest. And it does so on the basis of a platform that users have been trusting for many years (whether this is justified is quite questionable of course, as my colleagues Cathleen and Charlotte just now highlighted in an article in Tagesspiegel Background), namely Instagram (it is no coincidence that Instagram is part of the title of course “Threads, an Instagram App”). In the first week alone, Meta’s competitor product exceeded the user threshold of 100 million.

That just goes to show how important trust and familiarity are in the digital realm, doesn’t it? In a space often characterized as anonymous and impersonal, very human values are suddenly the most important currency. That makes me feel confident and underscores the great importance of our work. An interesting analysis of the events surrounding the two platforms was provided by George Washington University. You can also trust the information in our new glossary on disinformation, freshly launched on our Upgrade Democracy website. Here you will find various methods for dealing with digital disinformation. My colleague Kai also conducted a recent survey on disinformation and trust in the media in selected European countries. The result: More than half of EU citizens do not trust the accuracy of information online. And almost nine out of ten Europeans believe that both tech companies and politicians have a duty to take action against disinformation.

Enjoy, Joachim

Attitudes and perceptions of disinformation in Europe

Kai’s new study looks at attitudes and perceptions of disinformation in Europe. The survey of over 13,000 people shows, for example, that an overwhelming majority of EU citizens would like to see more dedication to combat disinformation.

New Study

[GER] „Bloggers for Hire“: Desinformation as a business model in Kenya

from Virginia Kirst

Against the backdrop of the difficult economic situation in Kenya, paid disinformation is playing an increasingly important role. More and more Kenyans are being paid to spread false information on the Internet – with negative consequences for the formation of public opinion.


[GER] The Twitter alternative that is none

If you look closely, Threads is not an overly promising alternative to Twitter. Rather, Meta continues its penchant for surveillance capitalism, digital colonialism, and attention economy there. It’s time to promote the real alternatives.


Reading recommendation

A comparison between Twitter and Threads

The George Washington University has devoted a detailed comparison between Twitter and Meta’s new short message service Threads in this text


Desinformation glossary by Upgrade Democracy

Prebunking and trust checking are terms you’ve never heard of before? We got you. We have explained the most important terms in the context of disinformation.


Dr. Joachim Rother

Dr. Joachim Rother

Project Manager

Dr. Joachim Rother is Project Manager in the Upgrade Democracy Team at Bertelsmann Stiftung and responsible for the Reinhard Mohn Award 2024. Prior to this position, Joachim was in charge of the Israel portfolio of Bertelsmann Stiftung, where he focused on fostering the German-Israeli relationship on a cultural, economic and political level. Joachim studied History, English and Social Studies at the University of Bamberg and holds a PhD in Crusade Studies. Prior to his work at Bertelsmann Stiftung, he served as deputy director of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (KAS) in Jerusalem, Israel. Joachim is alumnus of the KAS PhD scholarship program, The German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington D.C. and of the Jerusalem Institute of the Goerres Gesellschaft. 

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